DCH Regional Medical Center is taking its physician services in a new direction, focusing its efforts on working with a single hospitalist management company. This decision is followed by contract terminations for two local hospitalist groups.

A hospitalist is defined as a doctor that provides medical services to hospitalized patients. Normally, these are patients who do not have a primary care physician or whose primary doctor does not practice in the hospital.

PINNACLE PHYSICIAN GROUP, LLC

Pinnacle Physician Group, LLC was founded in 2005 by Dr. Charles Abney and employs 12 doctors and 13 nurse practitioners. Pinnacle CEO, Dr. Justin Bevel, said Abney "created the group independently to serve as hospital services for the Northport DCH campus.”

After a 15-year relationship, DCH administrators told Bevel in January that they would not be renewing Pinnacle’s contract.

Bevel said that DCH gave “vague” reasons for their decision.

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“The emphasis was on our performance in general. There were several statements made about our length of say index, which I can only assume they were referring to how things panned out as a larger hospital,” Bevel said. “However, I think the clearest thing I can say for the community is that Pinnacle Physicians Group began as a hospitalist group for the Northport campus, and it continues to be that way.”

The length of stay (LOS) index is the ratio of a patient’s actual stay to their expected stay in the hospital. It is an important factor in determining the efficiency of a hospital.

Bevel said that DCH’s reasoning not reasonable at all – he asserted that his staff works tirelessly to maintain a high standard of medical practice.

“We have bent over backward and gone to great lengths to achieve the results that they demanded we achieve at Northport,” Bevel said.

In a Facebook post, Pinnacle said on Jan. 19, “DCH awarded Pinnacle with a bonus check for performing substantially better than the expectations that DCH set for [them] at Northport under the current contract.”

UNIVERSITY HOSPITALIST GROUP

DCH Regional Medical Center also decided to end its contract with University Hospitalist Group (UHG).

UHG was established by University Medical Center (UMC), in partnership with DCH. The group was founded in 2003 and includes 18 physicians and three nurse practitioners.

The Tuscaloosa Thread went to extreme lengths to contact a representative for UHG or the University of Alabama's College of Community Health Sciences but was unable to reach anyone.

“The DCH Health System’s vision is to be the provider of choice in our community by continuously improving and delivering excellent care," said Andy North, Vice President of Marketing and Communication at DCH. "We feel that a collaborative relationship with a single hospitalist management company will be most effective in achieving that goal.

"Currently, we work with two hospitalist groups," he added. "It is not uncommon for a patient to start at one campus and later need to be transferred to another. Having one company manage the program at both campuses will help ensure continuity of care.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

North said the hospital has put out a Request for Proposals (RFP), which will allow interested agencies to submit a bid for what they think they can achieve with hospitalist services.

Bevel said that Pinnacle does plan to participate in the RFP, and in the meantime, Pinnacle staff members plan to continue serving patients as necessary.

“I would love it if DCH went ahead with this process, if that’s what they think is best for the patient, but chose to be ethical and not interfere with the relationships that we built with other doctors," Bevel said. "If these doctors decide that they trust us to see their patients, I think that supersedes some administrator who thinks they know better."

Pinnacle’s contract is scheduled to terminate at the end of the fiscal year, which is at the end of September.

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